School’s out

Health of children must take precedence over education right now.

IN an examination-oriented country like Malaysia, the very idea of children skipping school and missing classes is one that would be entertained only by the most negligent of parents. Generally, nothing save for the closure of the school would keep parents from sending their children for lessons; and even then, schools are not expected to close indefinitely. So, the current situation, in which schools open or close depending on how the wind is blowing that day, is undoubtedly frustrating for parents. Parents are beset by the uncertainty of whether or not school will be opened or closed the next day, and if it is closed, what to do with the children if there is no one into whose care the children may be left.

The schools (and their head teachers) cannot be faulted for this uncertainty since closure is dependant on the seriousness of the haze. And even though the Department of Environment’s website does provide hourly readings of the haze, this still means that head teachers would have to make a snap decision a few hours before school starts (well before dawn for morning-session schools) on whether to close or open schools. This decision would then have to be conveyed to all parents, who then would have to switch to the Plan A or Plan B of that day. If the direction of the wind changes, the situation could also change in later hours.

The problem for parents is further compounded by the fact that the Education Ministry gives them the discretion to decide on whether or not to allow their children to go to school that day, should they be concerned for their children’s health. Although this is fair, a decision to withhold the child from school in the interest of his or her wellbeing is made all the more difficult by the worry that the child would miss out on precious education since classes are ongoing. For parents of children with established respiratory illnesses, the decision would be fairly easy, but what about with ordinarily healthy children?

Read more @: School’s out – Editorial – New Straits Times

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